(Getty Images)

IndyCar: Charlie Kimball ready to kick into high gear for season’s stretch run

Leave a comment

With three-quarters of the Verizon IndyCar Series season complete, it’s time for Charlie Kimball to shift his season into overdrive.

Although Kimball has no wins, poles or podium finishes, he’s still performed well overall in the first 12 races of the season, with two top-fives (Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Indianapolis 500) and six other top-10s.

The California native enters Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway in 10th place in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.

In the three years that the series has raced there, Pocono has been a mixed bag for Kimball and the No. 83 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

He finished 12th in last year’s race and a career-worst 17th in 2014.

But on the flip side, and this is what Kimball hopes to replicate – or better – on Sunday, he finished runner-up in the first race there in 2013.

After his worst outing of the current season – 16th at Belle Isle 2 – Kimball has put together a good run of results since.

He was sixth at Road America, 10th at Iowa, 11th at Toronto and eighth almost three weeks ago at Mid-Ohio.

Kimball isn’t just knocking on the door for another top-five, he’s ready to kick that door down. And this weekend could not be a better time. While his 318 points have him ranked 10th in the standings, Kimball is only 39 points out of fifth place (currently occupied by Scott Dixon).

Another reason to add to Kimball’s optimism is last week’s open test at Pocono went very well for him and his team.

“We learned a lot testing at Pocono Raceway, mostly focusing on mechanical and aero changes so we have a good plan for the qualifying and race car setups when we return for the ABC Supply 500,” Kimball said. “If conditions were like they were during testing, I think there’s going to be a lot of talk about balance this weekend.

“As far as how the race strategy plays out, it’s anyone’s guess right now – we’ll have to wait and see if yellows play a big part or if we’re clean and fast.

“Even with a couple of test days, two off weekends seems like an eternity to be away from the track. I’m looking forward to going back for 500 miles on Sunday with the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Team.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.